Councilman Garodnick Holds Immigration Town Hall

Hundreds of New Yorkers gathered in Temple Emanu-El on 66th street Wednesday night for city councilman Dan Garodnick’s “Defending the Vulnerable” town hall. Garodnick, along with several immigration experts, addressed the crowd’s concerns regarding immigration and the refugee crisis under the Trump administration.

Garodnick did not take any questions from the audience, instead opting to open the night with some remarks. In them, he summarized the President’s Executive orders banning immigration from seven Muslim majority countries. While, also putting a particular focus on the country-wide ICE raids and why he believes calling a town hall is important.

“In New York City, in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, many people are looking to stand with immigrants and refugees and want to know how to help” said the Councilman.

Garodnick’s Chief of Staff Marianna Vaidman Stone and Libyan refugee Hasan Agili spoke next.

Stone fled to America as a Jewish refugee from Soviet Russia in 1979.

“I’ve never forgotten my refugee roots,” she said “I’ve never forgotten that it was the willingness of total strangers to go to rallies in the cold, to do walk-a-thons, to call their elected officials and to give money to Jewish organizations. These acts by total strangers are what allowed my family to come to America and build the life that we have been able to live in New York.”

Agili came a bit more recently, he was the only Libyan refugee admitted into the United States in 2016. He spoke of his struggles in fleeing Libya and the challenges he now faces under a Trump presidency.

He was one exam away from graduating a Libyan medical school, before he was outed as a gay man. From there, he fled to America. And after a long vetting process, he arrived on June 8th, 2016.

“I’ve been told that one year after my admission, I should get my green card and five years later, I get my citizenship” he said “now I have no idea what will happen next June, will I get my green card?, will I be deported?, why do you keep dragging me back to what I was running away from?”

The night concluded with Garodnick hosting a panel featuring Mark Hetfield, President and CEO of HIAS, Chole Tribich, Associate Director of Development and Communications at Make the Road NY, Murad Awawdeh, Director of Political Engagement for the New York Immigration Collation and Victoria Neilson, legal director of the Immigrant Justice Corps.

After taking a few Garodnick directed questions, the panel actually did take questions from the audience, unlike the Councilman.

They were wide-ranging, from local based questions about ICE’s relationship with the NYPD to general questions about the refugee vetting process.

But, the bulk of time was spent on discussing ways to help the refugee and immigrant communities. “We need to all be engaged more than we have been, being engaged on the local level is something we have kinda taken for granted or haven’t paid attention too” said Neilson.

Hetfield went even further when he said: “Probably the worst day of my professional life was January 27th when the President signed this vile Executive Order. And one of the best days of my life was January 28th when it was so offensive to so many Americans that all these spontaneous marches and airport demonstrations came out of nowhere within 24 hours” he said “ we’re just going to have to keep doing that over and over to get our message across that this is a vile, un-American act.”

Garodnick at the podium along with the rest of the panel.

Attendees were given “Action Sheets” with the phone numbers of New York’s federal elected representatives on their way out of the temple.

Garodnick and Agili took a second to pose with Joshua Davidson, Senior Rabbi at Temple Emanu-El, while they greeted attendees on their way out.
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